USW 16506

Health & Safety

April 27, 2014

A focus for Day of Mourning - leading OHS indicators

April 21, 2014

Day of Mourning Schedule for all of Ontario

New Health and Safety Documenting program released by WHSC

Mining review by MOL

March 7, 2014

February 28, 2014

Employer complies with order to provide guard for an armoured car crew

February 25, 2014

Specially priced ergonomics training supports RSI Day

WHSC high school student scholarship initiative

Webinar series to explore alternatives to harmful chemicals

April 5, 2013



April 4, 2013

Day of Mourning 2013 event listing now online at WHSC

April 4, 2013

2013 WHSC Post-Secondary Scholarship Initiative:


March 10, 2013

United Nations Report on Endocrine Disruptors Highlights Significant Disease Risk

Click to read more

February 28, 2013

Supervisor competency to remain a target for MOL construction blitzes

Click Link to read more

February 25, 2013

New Canadian Standard Focuses on Workplace Mental Health

Click Link to read more

 July 29, 2011


Saturday, October 1st, 10 am
A Walk to Remember the
Victims of Asbestos

and put an end to Canadian Asbestos Production

June 9, 2011

Hello worker representatives

At a strategic discussion meeting on April 27, OHCOW's Board met key representatives from our partners and we discussed how best to proceed in the very challenging months to come, especially the period up to the October 6 provincial election.

 Part of the action plan as we enter the implementation phase of Bill 160, over the coming weeks, is for worker community organizations to press for assurances of OHCOW's continued independence and labour governance; and for increased resources to enable us to better serve workers and respond to the needs of the worker community.

 We're asking that your organizations come forward to support OHCOW, primarily through support letters, expressing your support and also your specific priorities.  Also in the context of meetings your organization may have with elected provincial politicians or the Minister of Labour.

 The letters would basically  be in support of OHCOW's mandate and call for a resource increase.  And for unions which may wish to negotiate OHCOW services into their collective agreements, there is resource material for that as well. 

 There are two related documents.  

 The main package is the support materials themselves.  These  include a sample support letter as well as potential messages for your organization to use in meetings with politicians and others who may be ableto influence a resource decision for OHCOW.  The second document contains more detailed background information.  It's not for general distribution, but can help if your organization wants more information about OHCOW. 

 These same materials are being distributed through  OHCOW's Board and through our L ocal Advisory Committees on a regional level.   

 Support letters can either be general, or specific.  For example, a local union or Labour Council may well wish to focus on restoring resources for their local OHCOW clinic; or calling for a new clinic where there isn't one now (e.g., Ottawa, London).  Or support for WOHIS.

 There is no need to copy your letter to a long list of cc's.  In fact, sometimes support letters can also be more powerful if they aren't copied to anyone - e.g., a letter to a local MPP or Minister with whom you have a good relationship.   But please bcc such letters to Lyle and me  if you can.

 The idea is to get OHCOW well onto the radar over these crucial next few months.

 If anyone has questions about what might work best, just get in touch.

 Thanks for all your support


 Alec Farquhar

Managing Director

Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

601 - 15 Gervais Drive

Toronto, Ontario M3C 1Y8

Work: 416-510-8713 X5

Fax: 416-443-9132


Hello Committees

 Please be advised that Bill 160 - changes to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act received Royal Assent on June 1, 2011 which means it now officially becomes law.  However there are some phase-in identified timelines included in the Bill for some Sections.  FYI.

 In solidarity,



May 2011   


 Why OHCOW is so important to Ontario workers and unions

These are tough times for workers and unions.  This includes pressure to sacrifice our health and safety and workers’ compensation to save jobs, in the face of global competition and pressure on our public services.  But it is precisely in times like this that workers most need to protect health and safety.  Over twenty years ago, the labour movement recognized the vital need for expert professional resources which workers and unions can trust in helping detect occupational health problems and work for prevention.  This was the origin of OHCOW, which was established in 1989 and has existed ever since as a labour governed, independent and trusted resource. Workers and unions need OHCOW.  OHCOW also needs the support of the labour movement and broader worker community to sustain its role in future.

Background on OHCOW’s services and funding

OHCOW’s Board of Directors is composed of leaders and senior health and safety and workers’ compensation representatives from a wide range of unions, plus one representative each from the employer, injured worker and community legal community.  This means that the worker community governs OHCOW and sets its priorities.  The Board members collectively represent thousands of workers who have used or currently rely on OHCOW’s services and support. OHCOW provides its inter-disciplinary expertise to some of the most vulnerable workers in Ontario – including migrant farm workers and those who have fallen victim to occupational diseases from exposure to asbestos and other harmful substances.  This has included clusters of hundreds of cases from individual workplaces.  OHCOW also provides support to unions, employers and Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) to eliminate or reduce the underlying hazards which cause occupational health problems – especially ergonomic related problems, hazardous exposures, stress and workplace violence.

OHCOW now provides inter-disciplinary services and support through five permanent clinics (Sudbury, Toronto, Hamilton, Sarnia and Windsor) and one pilot clinic (Thunder Bay).  OHCOW’s inter-disciplinary teams (occupational physicians, nurses, hygienists, ergonomists and administrative professionals) can also be deployed anywhere in the province where they are needed. 

Services are free of charge to injured workers, groups of workers, unions, employers and workplaces.  This is possible because of the substantial level of funding ($7 million annually) provided to OHCOW by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).  Base funding for all prevention system organizations, including OHCOW, has been flatlined for a number of years.  Although WSIB has provided some project funding to OHCOW, this has not offset the flatlining of the base budget, which has meant that all of OHCOW’s clinics have lost staff and budgetary resources over the years. This has placed increasing limitations on the services which OHCOW can provide.   

The ongoing transformation of Ontario’s prevention system

WSIB also funds the Workers’ Health and Safety Centre (WHSC) and the four Safe Workplace Associations (SWAs).  This means that OHCOW’s role and future is linked to broader developments in Ontario’s prevention system.  Over the past few years, this system has been undergoing an unprecedented period of transformation.  For example, the original 12 SWAs have been merged into 4 new organizations.  Efforts have been underway to better coordinate and focus the activities of the various organizations. This had already led to concerns about potential threats to the ability for OHCOW and WSHC to continue to respond independently and freely to the needs and priorities of the worker community.

In the midst of this, public concern was heightened when four vulnerable new immigrant workers were killed on a Toronto construction site in December of 2009.  In January 2010, the provincial government appointed an expert panel, including equal numbers of labour and employer members.  The panel consulted extensively throughout 2010.  The worker community pressed the panel to recommend major changes to health and safety which would strengthen capacity and prevent future tragedies like the one in 2009.  This included:

·       increasing resources for enforcement (especially more inspectors at Ministry of Labour)

·       vigorously prosecuting employers who take reprisals against workers for exercising their health and safety rights

·       strengthening the functioning of JHSCs and ensuring real health and safety in Ontario workplaces, versus the current environment where employers who artificially suppress WSIB claims get financial rewards

·       mandatory, high quality health and safety training for Ontario workers and employers

·       better protecting vulnerable workers, including initiatives to penetrate the underground economy

·       a strong voice for the worker community in setting the direction for health and safety in Ontario; this included a call for a new structure guaranteeing a higher profile and greater priority for prevention.

·       guarantees for the continued labour governance and mandates of OHCOW and WHSC, to ensure that these organizations would continue to be able to support workers, unions and workplaces

The process culminated in the release on December 16, 2010 of the report of the expert panel.  It was widely seen by the labour movement as recognizing to a significant extent the issues which the worker community had brought forward.  The government committed to swiftly implement the panel’s recommendations. Some changes could be done by policy change, but others required legislation.

Bill 160

On March 3, 2011, the government tabled Bill 160, to implement the expert panel recommendations.  When the worker community reviewed the Bill in detail, there was concern that it was not consistent with the expert panel recommendations; and that there were unexpected provisions in the Bill which had not been recommended by the panel. 

At time of writing, the government has supported major changes in the Bill, which deal with a number of the labour movement’s concerns.  Bill 160 will likely be passed by the Legislature and implemented beginning in June 2011.  Please consult the Ontario Federation of Labour or your union for an update on Bill 160 and the current position which the labour movement is taking.

How you can support OHCOW

While Bill 160 is implemented, OHCOW will need strong support from the labour movement and worker community to be able to continue to play its vital role in future.  It might be a letter from your union or organization to the government or a direct communication when you have a chance to meet with your MPP or senior government officials.  You can also bargain services from OHCOW into your collective agreements.  Resource material for collective bargaining is attached.

A sample support letter for OHCOW also is attached.  But please do not just send that letter – revise it to speak for your organization and your specific priorities and needs for service from OHCOW.

If you or your organization has the opportunity to advocate for OHCOW, here are some key messages to communicate:

·                    you need OHCOW to support your organization and its members in detecting occupational diseases (including cancer) and injuries (such as repetitive strain injuries and other ergonomic related health conditions)

·                    you need OHCOW’s support to your members, JHSCs and workplaces in participatory prevention interventions.  These active types of interventions, which fully involve workers and their unions, bring lasting improvements in worker health – which benefits workers in human terms and employers in economic terms. 

·                    you support more resources for OHCOW to be able to serve workers and workplaces, including restoration of resources in Sudbury, Toronto, Hamilton, Sarnia and Windsor lost due to budget flatlining; a permanent clinic in Thunder Bay and new clinics in Ottawa and London.  In addition, for Windsor you can support resources for Windsor Occupational Health Information Services (WOHIS).

·                    you also support more resources for OHCOW to serve vulnerable workers, particularly migrant farm workers, new immigrant and First Nations workers, young workers and workers at temporary agencies and in other settings where they have little job security or support in exercising their rights to health and safety

·                    you support the autonomy and labour governance of OHCOW , to allow it to respond to the needs and priorities of Ontario’s workers, unions, JHSCs and health and safety representatives, employers  and workplaces;

·                    that you as a labour organization, cannot endorse behaviour based safety and that you support OHCOW in focusing instead on prevention and the elimination of hazards and conditions of work.

 ·                    that you support OHCOW’s focus on the concerns and experience of workers and their unions, and to become involved in workplace interventions  only when the workers (and their unions where there is one) are fully and freely involved.  This includes continuing to reach out to the unorganized workplaces.




To: your MPP, Minister of Labour, or Premier of Ontario

Dear xxxx:

RE: Support for the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW)

I am writing on behalf of xxxxx (name of organization and a short description of your organization and who you represent.)

Workers in Ontario have suffered from a wide variety of occupational injuries and illnesses for many years.  Many workers have been left unable to work; and in the most serious cases, lives have been lost.  We know the importance of prevention and appreciate the many prevention and enforcement efforts by the Ministry of Labour and the  Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.  We can prevent, and ultimately eliminate, these problems, and that  will have a major positive impact for workers and employers all across Ontario. 

The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) have been serving the workers of Ontario for over 20 years from clinics in Sudbury, Toronto, Hamilton, Thunder Bay,  Sarnia and Windsor.  Due to flatlined budgets, all of these clinics have suffered staffing reductions.  OHCOW’s resources are spread thin over a wide territory.  We believe that the time has come to restore resources to the five current clinics, make the Thunder Bay clinic permanent and to establish more OHCOW clinics – especially in Ottawa - to contribute to the wellbeing of workers and workplaces in all of  Ontario.

OHCOW’s clinics have a unique inter-disciplinary approach including occupational physicians, nurses, hygienists, ergonomists and administrative professionals.  This means that OHCOW can provide workplaces with the full professional expertise required to investigate occupational health conditions – and then to work effectively with us for prevention. 

We  especially need OHCOW’s services to (please describe the type of OHCOW help most important to your organization:

-          help us detect occupational injuries and illnesses

-          help us develop effective programs to prevent ergonomic related disabilities

-          help us develop effective programs to prevent occupational illnesses

-          help us work more effectively with Ontario’s prevention system

-          serve and support vulnerable workers including migrant farm workers, new immigrant and First Nations workers, young workers and those working for temporary agencies and other insecure employment

-          (Please try to be specific – describe the type of occupational problems your organization or workplace is facing.  Even better would be a testimonial if your organization or workplace has already received help from OHCOW).

We know that these are difficult times in Ontario.  We also know that financial resources are limited.  But we do hope that you can give consideration to this request.  Increasing resources to OHCOW will have a major positive impact for a modest investment.

We also strongly support the continued governance of OHCOW by representatives of the worker community, to ensure that OHCOW’s services continue to be freely available to the workers and unions which need them.  We support OHCOW’s service philosophy – to fully involve workers and their unions in prevention initiatives in working for genuine change in health and safety.  This will benefit both workers and employers.

Yours  xxxx

Name, title

Appendix B:  Bargaining OHCOW and WHSC into your collective agreement

Expert advice and support from OHCOW can be vital to strengthening health and safety of your members.  The best approach is to bargain OHCOW services into your collective agreement.  Here is sample language and useful background information to help you with this. 

OHCOW works closely with the Workers’ Health and Safety Centre, and best of all is to negotiate exclusive service from both organizations into your agreement.

OFL 2009 convention resolutions

Following is the 2009 OFL convention resolution regarding the negotiating of contract language for the use of OHCOW and the WHSC into collective agreements or terms of reference for JHSCs.

36. THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the OFL encourage every affiliate to negotiate, preferably through collective agreements or JHSC Terms of Reference, that only the WHSC and OHCOW will be used for training or clinical services.



1.The parties agree to utilise the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) for technical advice to members of the Joint Health and Safety Committees/Representatives and for clinical services to workers. 

2.The employer agrees not to restrict access of OHCOW when selected by the worker representatives on the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representatives.

3.The parties agree that access to accurate technical information is essential to the functioning of the joint health and safety committee.  Whenever such information is required, the committee will agree to use OHCOW. The employer agrees to pay any associated costs.

 4.When the committee cannot agree on the selection of technical experts, it is agreed that each party shall select their own expert or experts.  The employer shall grant such expert(s) access to the workplace as necessary for inspection and monitoring.

5.Each party agrees to provide the other with such reports as may be prepared by the technical



Background to assist in tabling of this language with the employer: what services OHCOW provides

OHCOW has 6 clinics across Ontario.  The clinics have inter-disciplinary teams of occupational physicians, nurses, ergonomists, hygienists and administrative professionals.  OHCOW offers clinical services to workers, who feel their health issue may be work related and need assistance; this includes preparing reports for use in WSIB claims or appeals.  OHCOW also provides technical advice and support from their inter-disciplinary occupational health team regarding ergonomics and the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); and regarding chemical and other exposures for the prevention of occupational health conditions. As well, OHCOW deals with workplace violence/psycho-social issues and prevention related to these types of hazards from an occupational health perspective. In all of its work, OHCOW starts from the perspective of the workers and their unions – and works in a participatory way with the workplace parties to ensure that the workers’ voice is fully heard. 

OHCOW deals often with vulnerable workers or health and safety activists who may fear reprisals for taking action.  We keep worker health records and other information strictly confidential, to ensure that we protect workers and activists.

Ordinarily, OHCOW does not provide individualized technical services (e.g., checking one specific workstation) but instead supports the union in a more general prevention intervention. 

OHCOW services are usually free, unless the service requested by a workplace is so extensive that it would interfere with OHCOW’s capacity to serve other workplaces. The free services can be a major selling point when negotiating language.  However, please check with the Executive Director of your local OHCOW clinic to make sure that what you are negotiating will be free, or whether there may have to be some cost recovery.

Here is how to contact OHCOW:



Leslie Piekarz, Executive Director

970 Lawrence Ave. West,

Suite 110

Toronto, Ontario  M6A 3B6


416-449-7772 (fax)

1-888-596-3800 (toll free)




Leah Casselman, Executive Director

848 Main Street East,

          Hamilton, Ontario L8M 1L9                                                                                               905-549-2552

905-549-7993 (fax)

1-800-263-2129 (toll free)




Donna Campbell, Executive Director

84 Cedar Street, 2nd Floor

Sudbury, Ontario P3E 1A5


705-523-2606 (fax)

1-800-461-7120 (toll free)



Mark Parent, Executive Director

3129 Marentette Ave., unit 1

Windsor, Ontario N8X 4G1


519-973-1906  (fax)

1-800-565-3185  (toll free)




Mark Parent, Executive Director

171 Kendall Street

Point Edward, Ontario N7V 4G6


519-337-9442 (fax)


Thunder Bay


Donna Campbell, Executive Director

1151 Barton St, Suite 103

Thunder Bay, Ontario  P7B 5N3


807-622-6905 (fax)

(T.W.T. -8:00am- 4:00 pm)



Provincial Office

                                    Alec Farquhar, Managing Director      15 Gervais Drive, Suite 601

                        Don Mills, Ontario M3C 1Y8

              416-510-8713  Fax:  416-443-9132

 Toll Free: 1-877-817-0336



March 29, 2011

Hello Committees

Please find attached the email from Vern Edwards the Director of Health & Safety for the Ontario Federation of Labour.  The link is to the proposed legislation (Bill 160) introduced at Queens Park yesterday.  This legislation is meant to begin the process of implementing the Tony Dean Report Recommendations - Vern was actually a Labour member on the Tony Dean Expert Panel which has been very helpful.

 As Vern mentions below we have some concerns regarding the sweeping powers of the Minister with this legislation but this was only first reading and we’re working on those issues.  There have also been a number of issues that I have found problematic which I will raise.  There is still an opportunity to have changes made.  FYI



Hi All,

The bill to enable the government to move on many of the Expert Panel recommendations received first reading yesterday. It is Bill 160. I have provided links to both the bill and to the debate in the legislature. To read what the Minister and the other two parties had to say click on the link and go to March 03, 2011 then click on the pdf link under Hansard. You will find the debate starting on page 4463

 I am still going through the bill there are a couple of issues that we will need to discuss. I have concerns with the power of the Minister but I am working with the Ministry to see if we can’t get this resolved. OPSEU has also identified a couple of issues that are a concern for the inspectors.




March 29, 2011

Hello Committees

Please find dates and locations for the WSIB Funding Review.  It's approaching very quickly.  There is a WSIB contact phone number at the end of the email trail if you require information or to register.



As Chair of this independent review, Prof. Harry Arthurs will consult with injured workers, employer and interested parties across the province. To facilitate this discussion, Prof.  Arthurs has released a Green Paper which provides the context of, and background information on, the six issues being addressed by the Review, and poses key questions for consideration. 

Public consultations have been scheduled at the following locations, which have been selected on the basis of indications of interest received in response to advertisements in local newspapers. All consultations will begin at 9:00 a.m. and are open to the public.


April 5th, 6th, 7th, 26th, 27th, 28th, May 3rd


Delta Chelsea Hotel
33 Gerrard Street


April 18th


Sheraton Hotel
116 King St. West


April 21st


Delta Armouries
325 Dundas St


April 12th


Holiday Inn
1696 Regent St

Thunder Bay:

April 13th


Valhalla Inn
Valhalla Rd


April 20th


Holiday Inn
1855 Huron Church Rd

Walk-in presentations will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis, if there are time slots available. If there are no openings available, interested parties will have the opportunity to speak with a person on-site who will make note of a participant’s suggestions on how the six key issues under review should be addressed.

In addition to the public consultations, interested parties who prefer not to make a public presentation or are unable to attend a session are welcome to submit their ideas in writing for improving the WSIBs financial position. Please send to: before June 15, 2011. For further information please call 416 344-5930 or Toll-free: 1-800-387-0750 (follow automated prompts then enter 10 digit extension 416-344-5930)


The WSIB Funding Review has now posted their schedule for provincial  consultations.  Here it is from their website.

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